2012 stocking-fillers

The best of this year's 'humour' books

It’s a brave reader who plunges into the ‘humour’ section of their local bookshop (if, indeed, such a thing still exists) in the hope of finding something genuinely witty amid titles such as How to Poo at Work, 50 Ways To Kill A Slug and 501 Amusing Jokes Stolen Off The Internet. Only that last one is fake.

But we’ve waded through this year’s batch of tree-wasters for five stocking-stuffers you might actually enjoy:

A Poke In The Eye With A Sharp Stick

Subtitled Amnesty Presents the Best of the Secret Policeman's Ball, this presents a transcript of some of the most memorable sketches from the long-running series of comedy benefits, which began back in 1976 when John Cleese dropped a line to the human rights charity. Alongside material from such big-name supporters as Eddie Izzard, Rowan Atkinson and Peter Cook (and a few lesser-known ones like Michael Redmond) are pictures from the events and chapters explaining how it all came about, courtesy of comedy historian Graham McCann. It’s a strong comic anthology from stars that justify the cover boast: ‘The greatest comedy line-up ever’. Buy from Amazon

A Billion Jokes (Volume One), by Peter Serafinowicz

Clearly inspired by the gags he pumps out on the Twitter feed that has won him two-thirds of a million followers, Serafinowicz has compiled 308 short, smart gags – then had them illustrated in mock-Edwardian style by designer Alex Morris. Delivered at a languid pace of one per page, the style is generally dry, clever wordplay that might take a beat or two for the penny to drop. Any such compilation almost inevitably won’t generate a laugh on every gag, but Serafinowicz’s rate is high, and they are all original in tone. As Simon Pegg says on the sleeve: ‘Peter Serafinowicz is the kind of funny person that funny people find funny’. Buy from Waterstones

I Can Make You Hate, by Charlie Brooker

If Serafinowicz is a funnyman’s funny man, Brooker is a critic’s critic – rancorous, yes, but insightful and witty, and uncompromising in targeting his subject’s weak spots. Or even, sometimes, surprising by praising things you’d thought he’d hate. This is a collection of articles Charlie Brooker wrote for The Guardian – including the last of his acerbic Screen Burn TV criticisms –  plus some scrips from 10 O'Clock Live and Wipe monologues, showing he can be just as piercing on broader issues as he is on rubbish TV shows. Buy from Amazon

Tommy Cooper: Jus’ Like That, by John Fisher

There are probably more Tommy Cooper joke books than there are Tommy Cooper jokes (and there are a lot of Tommy Cooper jokes). This contribution to the pile, takes the form of an annual for grown-ups; a mixture of gags, scripts, photographs and various other souvenirs from his stage and TV career. It’s not, of course, a definitive biography, but it’s a lovingly presented collection of ephemera ideal for those who like pouring over old playbills and running orders. The raw material was bequeathed to author Fisher, described as ‘keeper of the Cooper flame’, by the comedian’s widow Glen and long-term (and long-suffering) manager Miff Ferrie. Buy from Waterstones

1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off

Not,strictly a comedy book, but an amazing collection of one-line trivia to ensure you’re never welcome at a pub quiz or dinner party ever again. But there’s no way describe this book in Latin... the language has no word for ‘interesting’. So just 1,226 more to go... An even more amazining - the Kindle edition of this is just 20 pence – though you could hardly give that as a gift. Buy from Amazon

Published: 11 Dec 2012

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